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Relief for Dog Hip Dysplasia

December 18, 2011

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14-Year-Old German Shepherd has Trouble Getting Up

“Bilbo has been slowing down for a few years, but now it seems to really bother him,” said the sweet, gentle shepherd-mix’s mom.

14-year-old shepherd mix suffers hip dysplasia

Sweet, patient Bilbo's hips hurt

Hind Leg Muscle Atrophy is a Classic Sign of Disuse

Doc Truli examined the 14-year-old hips. Bilbo’s leg muscles looked sunken and small. The muscles over the femurs felt mushy and weak. By contrast, Bilbo’s shoulders were developed and thickened from years of carrying his weight on the front.

“Dogs naturally carry more than 50% of their body weight over their shoulders,” said Doc Truli, but when dysplasia and arthritis attack the hips, the shoulders take most of the weight and the hind leg muscles atrophy from lack of use.”

Because Bilbo’s hind legs were very skinny, we could tell he had been compensating for hip pain and/or dysfunction for a long time.

“Pet parents often ask me if their dog is in pain, or if the hips just prevent them from moving like they should,” says Doc Truli.

If your hips did not work right, causing you to walk mostly on one leg, would you not feel tightened muscles, irritation, perhaps pinched nerves, unequal muscle development, and maybe pain? Would you wait until you could not get up at all to seek care for the problem?

The take-home (if you are home, then the at-home) message Bilbo teaches us is this – if your dog or cat is changing normal movement patterns, then there is a significant compensation going on. We should do what we can to aid the pet.

What Can Be Done? Isn’t It Expensive?

If your dog has dysplasia, which is dysfunction of the hip joint(s) due to the ball and socket not fitting and working well together – whatever the exact constellation of reasons – then there will be some degree or another of constant wear and tear on the joint (s).

If your dog is a puppy, there are surgeries which can change the angles of the hip joints and sometimes correct the problem before they are done growing. These surgeries are specialized , expensive, and not without risk. But if you can afford a triple pelvic osteectomy for a 5 month old English Bulldog puppy, then he or she will live a more comfortable life.

A middle-aged dog needs nutritonal support., starting for 85% of dogs with a diet. Half of arthritis and dysplasia treatment is weight loss. Carrying those extra pounds is crippling (if you don’t believe it – ask a person who is over their ideal weight how their knees and hips feel!) See VirtuaVet’s How to Get Your Dog to Lose Weight for tips and links to other stories about specific fat breeds of dogs.

Omega Threes (ask you vet for doses and advice about combining omega 3’s with other foods and supplements and medications), Vitamin E, Adequan, and combinations of pharmaceuticals help to stop inflammation and deterioration so a dog can exercise and build lost flexibility and strength.

If a dog is in extreme pain, there is a surgery called an FHO – femoral head osteectomy. Believe it or not – a doctor can remove the ball (head) from the ball and socket joint of the hip and the dog will walk just fine. Hard to imagine, but if you imagine the original anatomy as a kind of scaffolding for growth – then you can remove parts and the whle still stays together – it’s like that.

(BTW- the intervertebral discs in the spine are like that too – you know, the cushions between the vertebrae. You can remove one and your spine won’t miss it! Weird,right?)

Lesser Known Treatments for Canine Hip Dysplasia

Acupuncture can help. If it does help, then gold bead implants can be inserted surgically at the acupuncture points for constant help so your dog not have to keep going back for regular acupuncture sessions.

Therapeutic cold laser therapy helps, too.

Then there is the newer treatment – stem cell therapy. This is super popular in the news recently. Your dog would have 2 short surgeries. One surgery to harvest fat cells. The fat cells are processed to extract pluripotent stem cells. Stem cells are the progenitors of any type of cell they want to be in the body. What they grow into depends on where they are put. So a second surgery puts them in the joint that hurts and they become new cartilage and healthy new cells for the joint.

How Can I Tell If My Dog has a Hip Problem Before the End-Stage Obvious Stuff You Described?

  • Breed prone to dysplasia (the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has a comprehensive list)
  • Yearly vet visits. Ask about the hips.
  • Slowing down – is your dog “acting old?” Because you know Doc Truli believes old age is not a disease – for our pets or ourselves – and there is not “natural” slowing down” like most people think. It’s a symptom.
  • Is your dog fat? Then arthritis will set in 2-4 years sooner than it should. This is proven in a case-controlled prospective scientific study. Get your veterinarian’s help and put your pooch on a diet.

Bilbo Felt Better

Bilbo was not fat. He took a strong Omega 3 supplement, Vitamin E, Came for Adequan injections twice a week for 4 weeks, and then started going to a doggy physical therapy veterinarian for underwater treadmill therapy. After 6 months, he was running like a puppy, although he sometimes needs an Adequan injection to help him feel better.

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